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Country of the Week: Saint Lucia

In Countries by Kyle RammlerLeave a Comment

Having changed hands no less than a dozen times, the island country of Saint Lucia has grown into a vibrant (and always beautiful) Caribbean nation!

  • Capital (and Largest City): Castries
  • Population (2016): 186,000 (179th)
  • Total Area: 617 km² (191st)
  • Official Language: English
  • Vernacular Language: Saint Lucian Creole French
  • Currency: East Caribbean dollar ($) (XCD)
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The Pitons – iconic volcanic spires along the coast

History of Saint Lucia

What we know of Saint Lucia begins with French pirates visiting the island during the mid 16th century. At the beginning of the 17th century, there were attempts at colonization, first by the Dutch, then by the English. None persisted for long however, and the island remained generally free of permanent European settlement for a few decades.

French Saint Lucia

In 1643, the French succeeded in permanently settling the island, by way of Martinique. While there was a two-year period of English rule, the French West India Company managed to drive them out (the English were also suffering mightily from disease at this point), and claimed the island again. Saint Lucia was made an official colony in 1674 (as a part of Martinique).

A Contested Land

While the island remained a French colony, the British wouldn’t give up on it so easily. Throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries, Saint Lucia changed hands over a dozen times. During this period, slaves were used on the island by both the French and British, eventually outnumbering the Europeans by a significant amount. A century of strife was ended after the Napoleonic Wars, which saw Saint Lucia granted to Britain as part of the treaty. Not soon after, slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire, which resulted in a free majority of people of African descent. The next century and a bit saw Saint Lucia chugging on as a part of the British Windward Islands colony.

Modern Saint Lucia

As decolonization swept the world in the late 1950’s and early 60’s, Saint Lucia joined other nearby countries in the short-lived West Indies Federation. In 1967, Saint Lucia was granted the right to govern itself in domestic matters however full independence didn’t come until 1979. Today, Saint Lucia has carved out a place for itself in the busy Caribbean as a prominent tourist destination (and banana growing centre), despite its small size.

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A stream in the Mamiku Gardens

Saint Lucian Culture

Saint Lucian culture comes from a variety of backgrounds, namely African, East Indian, British, and French. Despite English being the official language (typical of strong British influence over the past couple centuries), a dialect of Creole French is spoken by almost all the residents as well – making Saint Lucia a member of La Francophonie.

Festivals and Music in Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia is well known for cultural festivals, including La Rose and La Marguerite. They both represent different societies – the first is the Order or the Rose (based off of Rosicrucianism, a society claiming to “come from esoteric ancient truths”), and the latter comes from Freemasonry. The Jazz Festival is one of the major annual events while other forms of Caribbean music and dance are popular all year round!

Sports in Saint Lucia

The most popular sports in Saint Lucia are cricket and soccer, both products of European (particularly British) colonization. The country is under the jurisdiction of the West Indies team, the current ICC World Twenty20 champions. Saint Lucia has only had one player called up (Darren Sammy), however he is the current captain.

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A hummingbird does what it does best near Soufrière

Geography of Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia is a small, volcanic island part of the larger Windward Islands group. It is very mountainous, more so than most other Caribbean islands, with peaks and rainforests dominating the interior. The capital and largest city is Castries, which is home to about 20,000 people (though 70,000 live in the ‘quarter’ surrounding it). It has a busy harbour, which plays host to cargo ships as well as cruise lines.

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A view over the port of Castries

Facts about Saint Lucia

  • Sulphur Springs in Soufrière is the “world’s only drive-in volcano”
  • Jacquot is a parrot native only to Saint Lucia
  • The island can be difficult to reach outside of cruise ships
  • Coves and inlets are more common than long beaches here
  • It is the second largest of the Windward Islands
  • The country has the second highest rate of Nobel Prize winners per people (next to the Faroe Islands)
  • Children are often raised by relatives as parents move around for work
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Magical view from the Pitons

Last Word

Interested in learning more about this fascinating Caribbean island? Check out our Travel Guide and a unique Currency Spotlight coming this week!

Stay tuned to theCurrent for our Country of the Week. We’ll explore the familiar and the foreign, plus uncover some hidden gems (see them all HERE).

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